- Category: Elk
- Published: Saturday, 22 September 2018 18:35
- Written by Greg
20 Years In The Making - Long Range Bull
About 20 years ago I started applying for a limited entry bull elk tag for my wife. I had been apply for 10 years running when she finally found out about my scheme and told me to quit putting her name in for the drawing. Teresa is not a hunter, to say the least. She will not watch hunting shows, she prefers that I don’t bring home harvested animals, instead she favors the idea of taking the game straight to the processor and would rather not store any wild game in our freezer. Anyway, my response to her remark was that we were too invested to back out now.
Literally 19 years later we received notification that she had drawn a limited entry elk tag. Now successfully drawing this tag was not a surprise to us since the statistics showed that she was guaranteed a tag based on the hunting unit ‘we’ applied for. This advanced notice gave me plenty of time to prep her for the upcoming hunt. We practiced shooting the gun over the summer, I down played the potential rigor of such an impending hunt, I promised that the hikes would be rather short and effortless and I did my best to hype up the ease and enjoyment of just being out in nature. Furthermore, I assured her that there would be a lack of pressure to ultimately take an animal although our goal was to harvest a bull. Those were truly my honest intentions for the upcoming hunt, so I never would have imagined that our GPS would log 9 miles of hiking on day one.
As opening day approached, I wouldn’t say that Teresa was overly excited about the upcoming hunt, but the idea of it all had grown on her a bit. That may have been mostly because she was excited for me since I had looked forward to this hunt for so many years. And I’ll admit that when we spotted a huge herd bull the day before the hunt, my excitement level jumped a few notches.
On opening morning we pulled up to the end of the two track road just before first light. The entire crew consisting of ten, yes ten, of us had our day packs loaded for what we thought would be a relatively easy and short path leading toward the area where we had spotted the huge herd bull the previous day. Before we knew it, it was 2:00 p.m. and we had only seen a couple of cow elk to this point. And surprisingly we had not heard a single bugle. Then it happened, an unexpected midday bugle sounded from down in the canyon below. We quickly answered with a bugle of our own. The bull responded! A couple of minutes passed and the bull again sounded off, but this time he sounded much closer. Teresa was setup and waiting for the bull to emerge at any moment. I worried that the bull might crest up over the hill at an almost-too-close-for-a-shot situation of 30 yards. Ten minutes passed, everything had gone silent. We decided to inch forward to look down over the ridge. It was Teresa who spotted the bull slowly moving up and away on the opposite side of the small canyon 280 yards away. Within seconds several of us were looking at the bull through our binoculars and instantly classified the bull a shooter. Not long after, Teresa had the bull in her crosshairs but the bull hadn’t yet provided the broadside shot opportunity that we had coached her through. We let out a few cow calls and bugled, but the bull didn’t want any part of what we had to offer. At one point the bull popped his head out from behind the trees and looked our way, but we cautioned Teresa to wait for the bull to expose more than his head and neck. Unfortunately the huge 7 point bull turned directly away from us and never provided the shot we sought. By the time we dragged ourselves back to our ATVs, we had put on a grueling 9 miles of wear on our boots. The goal of not burning out my wife on the first day of her hunt went out the window…oops.
Busted out the hammocks for an afternoon break Teresa glassing in the afternoon
The next morning came way too quickly. It was tough to drag ourselves out of bed on that Sunday morning but we did it, albeit slowly. We did manage to locate a massive 5x5 bull with a herd of cows during the morning hours, but we encouraged Teresa to pass on the bull even though she had the elk squarely in her sights. For whatever reason, this bull just didn’t seem to fit the bill at that moment. That evening we spotted a couple of spike elk feeding along a distant sidehill, but that was it for elk sightings on day two. Unfortunately the majority of the crew had to head back home for school and work, so only three of us remained to hunt for the rest of the week.
Monday morning we awoke feeling a little more rested than the day before. Although we hadn’t hunted this particular area before, we knew of a hike that would be relatively easy and hoped some elk might be holed up in this precise drainage. Less than 150 yards into our hike we spotted a single cow up above us in the trees 50 yards away. The cow seemed to be alone, but with the rut in progress we figured there might be a bull lurking nearby. Seemingly unfazed by our presence, the cow slowly moved off. We continued along the trail about another 200 yards when the bugle of a nearby elk rang out. Peering around the corner of the trail, Mark spotted a 6 point bull standing with his cows just off the trail at 40 yards. But before Teresa could react, the bull moved his cows down off the trail and into the thick cover below. As the big bull moved his harem further into the canyon below, his bugles were answered by several other bulls that inhabited this same drainage. As quickly as we could, we moved to higher ground hoping to gain a vantage point. It took us a good fifteen to twenty minutes before we reached a point where we could view the burned out sidehill across the canyon. After a couple minutes of glassing, we spotted a herd of elk slowly moving through the burn across the way. We assumed these to be the same elk that we had seen less than a half hour before, so scoured the mountain for the bull. After another couple of minutes, Mark finally spotted the bull wallowing in the mud some 50 yards behind the herd. At a distance of roughly 700 yards, it was virtually impossible to tell how big the bull was even though we were viewing him with our 10 power binoculars (we hadn’t yet made time to set up the spotting scope). Anxiously we waited for the bull to join the other elk who were now feeding out into the open.
Just made an incredible shot! Range finder as sun peeks over ridge
Teresa was ready. The 6.5 Creedmoor was resting on the tripod and was pointing in the direction of the herd. Now all we needed was for the bull to come join the party. A few minutes later the bull had had enough of his mud bath and started in the direction of the cows. The bull had no more than paused in the first opening he came to when Teresa said “I’ve got him in my scope, should I shoot?” I was completely caught off guard because I was having a hard time seeing the bull at this distance and my adrenaline was pumping. I looked over and Teresa looked to be as steady as a rock. Both Mark and I quickly agreed that if she was comfortable with the situation, then yeah, go ahead and take the shot. At this point we actually had no idea if this was the same bull we had seen earlier or did we know how big the bull was. But none of that mattered, we had put forth a valiant effort to this point and Teresa was comfortable and had the shot. The range finder showed the incredible distance of 692 yards. Teresa squeezed off a shot. At that distance it was about impossible to tell exactly what had happened. “Did I hit it” she exclaimed. The bull stood motionless for a couple of seconds, then shuffled his feet and went down!
Excitedly we hurried to set up the spotting scope to get a better look. Sure enough, the bull was down. Never in my life had I witnessed such a remarkable shot! And even with all of our carrying on, there was no way to adequately express the difficulty of the feat my wife had just accomplished in a way that she could fully comprehend at that moment. Teresa simply gave all the credit to the combination of the gun and scope. We congratulated her on her amazing shot and then set our sights on the next task at hand, getting the elk back to camp. I pulled out my phone, 7:30 a.m. Like the old saying goes, now the work starts. Mark made a couple of quick phone calls to Caleb and Scott, who both without hesitation agreed to skip work and head up the mountain to help pack out the elk. It took all day, but by 5:45 p.m. we were back to camp with a very respectable 6 point bull elk!
Almost back to the truck Teresa leading the way, with the guys loaded up